Allegations of animal mistreatment at Princeton University surface

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Shirley M. Tilghman
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http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2011/09/allegations_of_animal_mistreat.html

Allegations of animal mistreatment at Princeton University surface

By Samantha Costa, The NJTimes.com, Friday, September 30, 2011

TRENTON - A whistleblower leaked graphic photographs and an eyewitness account of alleged animal mistreatment and killings by Princeton University’s Primate Neuroethology Laboratory yesterday as part of a campaign headed by Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN).

“In light of allegations raised by SAEN, we are once again reviewing our procedures to ensure our standards are being met,” said Princeton University spokesman Martin Mbugua.

SAEN, a Cincinnati-based organization, wants to put an end to animal experimentation. SAEN said the lab workers aren’t following federal regulations neuroscientists are to abide by at the lab in Princeton, where the brains, actions and behavior of primates are studied to gain better insight into the human brain and system.

“This gives you a very clear picture of a lab that has little to no concern for the animals,” Michael A. Budkie, executive director of SAEN.

In the whistleblower’s complaint, the principal investigator for the lab’s research team, Asif A. Ghazanfar, was called “the most brazen professor,” who “constantly refuses to cooperate with animal care staff, and also refuses to do things in compliance with regulations, or to cooperate with required inspections."

Ghazanfar could not be reached for comment.

The complaint details the lives of primates who underwent water deprivation, unsecure cages leading to injury and euthanization, and reports of one primate being, “clubbed with a hockey stick by a researcher and a student.”

Another complaint claims several marmosets were left in cages that were sent through a cage washer.

Photographs show screaming primates in small cages.

Other images show a collection of primate brains in a bucket atop a desk, and one decapitated primate head with its eyes removed.

(All of the images are available on the SAEN site. Warning: Some are graphic.)

Mbugua said the university takes all allegations seriously, and that it has increased oversight in the care of animals in the lab.

In 2005, the university implemented an anonymous hotline for concerns regarding compliance issues.

Mbugua said the university has records showing there have been no complaints since 2007.

SAEN declined to identity the whistleblower.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed yesterday that the agency received SAEN’s documentation of the whistleblower’s complaint and photographs Monday.

“Our standard protocol is always to take the complaint seriously and try to send one of our inspectors to the facility to look into that matter,” USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said.

Mbugua stands by his belief in animal research conducted at Princeton.

“It’s important to know that animal research at universities like Princeton, lead to breakthroughs that benefit not only people, but also the environment and other animal species,” he said.

“For virtually every major biomedical advance of the last century, that advance would not have been attainable without the critical role played by animal research.”

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